Thursday, 15 December 2011
Something that takes the shine off it though is getting to new years eve and not fitting into your best party frock having gained more than a couple of christmas pounds. I read in Grazia (admittedly not quite QI) that on average women gain 5Lbs over Christmas.
An extra 5lbs would rule out half my wardrobe and leave me wearing leggings and jogging bottoms with baggy tops, so I follow this simple rule as best I can to enjoy my Christmas treats without turning into a dumpling:
Don't eat if you're not hungry
Your appetite is your own personal calorie counter - if you're eating richer foods and exercising less your appetite will naturally regulate down.
Mince pies being handed out at work? Save yours til your peckish, you'll enjoy it more.
Find that your Christmas dinner is three times the size of your normal dinner? Serve yourself little portions of everything so you enjoy all the flavours but leave some room for pudding.
And don't waste any calories eating foods you don't like - that's my license for you not to eat your sprouts!
Above all make sure you enjoy your indulgences, try and buy the best quality treats (home made is even better) and enjoy every mouthful. If somethings under par put it to one side and find something else to eat.
On that note I'd like to wish all NITC readers a wonderful Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year. I'll be back in January with tips on how to make a healthy start to 2012.
Tuesday, 13 December 2011
I love your zen diet, but do you think this is a good time of year for detox, as it's New Year and i think a lot of people might consider doing one?
Also do you think it's good to detoxify for a few days eating only certain foods, or drinking fruit and vegetable juices for example, or not and what do you think about detoxifying supplements and diets and using hydrocolonotherapy?
Well that's a great question for this time of year but a big one also, so I'm going to answer it in two parts!
Firstly I don't think January is a good time for a proper detox, and by that I mean anything from a strict fruit and veg juice fast for a few days, to a restrictive detox diet for a month ala Carol Vorderman. The reason is that, incase you hadn't noticed, it's still freezing outside which means your body will be naturally trying to store more fat for warmth than in spring/summer. For your body to detox properly it needs to break down stored fat where excess toxins that your liver couldn't cope with have been stored. Therefore, this is the most difficult time of year to detox as it's in conflict with your body's survival mechanism. In short, if it's cold enough to need a winter coat it's too cold to detox.
Having said that it's always good to cut down on the usual culprits post Christmas - sugar, chocolate, alcohol, cheese, caffeine and fizzy drinks. If you usually eat healthily this should be pretty easy, but if you consume a lot of these you may still get detox symptoms such as headaches and lethargy so cut down gradually.
But .... when it does warm up, come springtime, I do think a detox can do you a lot of good, either as a short strict fruit and veg detox or a longer, clean diet detox.
City lives expose us to loads of toxins, both in terms of pollution and in terms of eating processed or unnatural foods that evolution has not had time to adapt us to, so we need to give our bodies a toxin free holiday to recover every now and then. Plus it gives the body the time and energy to recover - the body has amazing powers to heal itself but only when it's not using all it's energy processing toxins and digesting heavy meals.
Out of the two I think on balance following a longer detox diet is more beneficial, than a short juice fast, but if you can do both once a year then that's going to be brilliant for you. Details on a short fruit and veg detox or my favourite longer detox diet -Dr Joshi's Holistic detox can be found in these previous postings.
As for supplements and additional therapies, I don't think these are essential to follow a detox and get benefits and I usually just stick to my usual supplement regime. Admittedly that includes a multivitamin, extra vitamin c, b complex, fish oil, antioxidant complex, cherry active (more antioxidants) and spatone (natural iron supplement) plus digestive enzymes! Which is a lot more than I'd expect most of you to be taking but a good multi containing a range of antioxidants and some extra vitamin C would be a good place to start. But there are a few key nutrients that can really help accelerate the detox process and some other alternative therapies that can complement the process, but more on that next week!
The health industry, weight loss products in particular, is worth billions of pounds and is an easy sell - people love the idea that buying a product or taking a pill will miraculously make you model thin. But when you think about the return on your investment you may find these quick fixes aren't such good investments.
Diet meals and shakes - certainly these make dieting easy, buying all your food pre-prepared means no time spent shopping, cooking or meal planning. BUT:
Firstly it's not cheap - buying ready meals is more expensive than preparing healthy meals yourself and alot of the diet shakes are overpriced versions of protein shakes you could easily make at home with pure whey protein and fruit which would be a) cheaper and b) healthier.
Secondly, most diet meals are highly processed reducing their nutrient content. Shakes and bars usually have a high milk content and sugars or artificial sweeteners to make them palatable, all of which are positively bad for you.
Thirdly, this way of dieting doesn't teach you how to eat properly in the long run. Do you really plan to spend the rest of your life drinking slim fast?
Investment value: low
Better alternative: Invest in some education - give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll have food for life - the same goes for healthy eating. Books by The Food Doctor and Michel Montignac are good sense places to start and secondhand copies can be picked up very cheaply on Amazon.
Gym membership: Let's face it, city gyms aren't cheap, even if you get a corporate discount so the cost per wear clothing principal is very prescient - if you're only going once a week your gym could be costing you up to £25 a pop. But saying that exercise itself is a great investment, helping prevent diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and a host of other debilitating diseases. Whilst keeping you in shape and your energy levels up.
Better alternative: exercising outdoors is almost free, bar buying appropriate shoes, and certainly running and cycling are great cardio workouts. For toning and equipment based exercise pay per go gyms and park based boot camps are usually good value for money. Your local council gym may also be surprisingly affordable even if it doesn't have the luxury spa facilities!
Vitamins and minerals are certainly good for you but there's a totally vast range out there from the basic vitamin C to the latest natural diet craze such as colon cleanse tablets or goji supplements. Good supplements can help keep you in good health, encourage fat burning and get your skin, hair and nails in great condition, whilst a bad one can be a total waste of money but is unlikely to cause you harm.
This is where sticking to reputable brands is a good policy. I mainly recommend Biocare, Eskimo, Solgar and Higher Nature products (all available from nutricentre) as these brands base their products on research and feedback from qualified practitioners. In some cases they may be more pricey than the supermarket version but if you look at the actual amounts of individual nutrients in each tablet you'll find that per microgram you're probably paying more in tesco or boots and just swallowing a load of unnecessary fillers. In addition if you call up the manufacturers they can give you some guidance on the best supplements to take for your requirements or send you their informative catalogues.
Investment value: poor to excellent depending on your selection
Best option: go for reputable brands and long-standing formulas rather than the latest fad product. Ask for advice either from the supplier or a nutritional therapist, to make sure your taking the best supplements for your needs.
Once you've applied some health investment common sense you should have some money spare to invest in some rewards - Ms Haribo is the expert on self-incentivizing as a means of motivating, but in essence just plan a reward for when you hit your goal, whether it's losing a few pounds or giving up chocolate for two weeks. I've certainly got my eyes on a new season dress from Precious as a reward for losing my Christmas pounds through my January zen diet!
One such ingredient on my hit list this month is the humble walnut. Packed with vitamin E, omega 3 fats and antioxidants it is a superfood for the brain helping protect the brain's delicate fatty tissue. Infact a recent study based on feeding students with banana bread with or without ground walnuts in it, found that daily walnut consumption over eight weeks increased their results in mental reasoning tests by 11per cent - pretty impressive.
Unfortunately it's not one of my favourite nuts by a long way, but it is one of the most beneficial. Consequently, whilst I wouldn't enjoy eating a bag of them, I will add them chopped to salads, risottos, muesli and breakfast cereals as a booster. Mixed in with other foods I find I actually enjoy them.
Another great way to incorporate them is in a homemade snack bar. I've been making these breakfast bars from Elanas pantry for ages, but recently have started playing around with the ingredients and made a Christmas version with chopped walnuts, allspice and dried cranberries (see below, original recipe is on my recipe page). Even my mum, with her high taste standards, enjoyed them and will be making them as her new hiking snack!
You can pretty much subsitute any nuts/seeds for the seeds in this recipe and use any dried fruit instead of the cranberries. Just stick to the same volumes. Enjoy!
ps It appears that along with all you lovely people, Santa also reads NITC, as he delivered all the books on my Christmas list ... Lucky me! Thank you Santa :-)
Christmas nut snack bars:
1 ¼ cup ground almonds
1/8 teaspoon celtic sea salt (I used Solo low sodium salt)
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon allspice
¼ cup grapeseed oil
¼ cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts
½ cup flaked almonds
¼ cup dried cranberries
In a small bowl, combine almond flour, allspice, salt and baking soda
In a large bowl, combine grapeseed oil, agave and vanilla
Stir dry ingredients into wet
Mix in walnuts, almond slivers and cranberries
Grease an 8x8 baking dish with grapeseed oil (I used a 1lb loaf tin)
Press the dough into the baking dish, wetting your hands with water to help pat the dough down evenly
Bake at 180°C for 20 minutes (until firm and golden coloured)
Cut into bars and allow to cool before taking out the tin
Makes 6-8 bars
Monday, 12 December 2011
But even if you can't say no to a mince pie or a pig in a blanket you can minimize the damage by squeezing in some exercise.
Christmas is generally a quieter time in the city, this usually means post-work drinks starting early, but it's also a good opportunity to fit in a workout before you go out. Your friends will still be in the pub when you're finished and you'll have missed out on at least a couple of drinks in the process. Plus, even if you're tired, a quick gym session can really perk you up and give you a bit of personality for the evening.
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Thursday, 8 December 2011
Unsurprisingly, hangovers seem to extend the queue in the canteen for bacon sandwiches significantly - when you're feeling worse for wear a bowl of rice krispies just isn't going to cut it. But beware - a few too many of these and you'll be doing damage both to your waistline and overall health. Infact the government actively recommends minimizing pork products in your diet to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
So before you join the bacon buttie queue consider your options:
Firstly are you really hungry? Wait until your body asks for some food before tucking in. Post-bender it might actually want a break so just have some fluids til your appetite kicks in.
Make yourself have a piece of fruit and a glass of water before you eat anything else. This will give you vitamin C and water - two essential inputs for your liver to detoxify alcohol. If you really can't face fruit have an OJ and if water doesn't appeal have a bottle of Vitamin water or a decaf tea.
Next up assess your options at the hot food counter:
Are poached eggs available? Poached eggs on wholegrain toast makes a great comforting and filling breakfast.
If you fancy a fry up limit the damage by going veggie:
Have beans, poached or fried egg, veggie sausage, grilled tomatoes or mushrooms and wholegrain toast. This fibre full selection can't fail to fill you up, but with significantly less fat, and therefore calories, than having sausage, bacon, black pudding and hash browns.
Really can't go without a breakfast buttie? Go for bacon rather than sausage (less fat and additives) and have with grilled tomato rather than ketchup (the sugar in the ketchup makes your body store more of the fat in the bacon).
And for those with a bit more self-control: a glass of OJ with some muesli with natural yoghurt followed by a herbal tea can work wonders for a thick head.
Wednesday, 7 December 2011
Firstly eat before you go there. Have a substantial snack in the office before you go, a sandwich or mini portion of sushi are good options. This will line your stomach and stop you hoovering up the unhealthy bar food on offer.
Secondly pace yourself with drinks. Alternate every drink with a glass of water - this applies for soft drinks as well as alcohol as these are usually full of sugar and other badies but easy to get through quickly, by alternating you'll cut the calories you're consuming.
When your appetite does kick in it's best to stay low carb - go for crudites, mezze, parma ham, smoked salmon, nuts or olives, avoid chips, wedges and crisps. The former contain more protein to fill you up and are less moreish, plus they are low GI minimizing the damage to your waistline.
Finally know when to turn into a pumpkin - you don't have to wait for midnight to make your curtain call. When you've had enough sneak off home to bed - remember sleep is the best way to reduce a hangover and no ones going to give you a prize for staying out til you couldn't stand up!
Tuesday, 6 December 2011
Sadly for us city folk a two week christmas break is hard to come by and christmas can feel like a last minute rush which is no fun.
So here are my top tips to make sure you enjoy Christmas as much as possible without any last minute stresses:
1. make lists - I'm a massive list maker but it helps keep me sane when I'm trying to juggle too many tasks. Make three lists of things you have to do before Christmas: Things to buy (xmas pressies, food for entertaining, party dress), things to do at home (write cards, put up tree, prepare for guests), things to do in town (hair cut, facial, going to the post office) and things to do at work (there's usually some tasks that have to be done by the end of the year). These might be fairly long, but once you've got them down you can get stuck in. Anything not on the lists can wait til the New Year, get these ones dealt with as soon as poss. and then you can relax and enjoy the party season.
2. Like a good girl scout be prepared for every eventuality - have some dinners in the freezer for when you won't have time to cook, keep spare christmas cards and gifts at home and work to give to anyone you missed off the list, get your christmas food shopping list setup and ready to go online so you've not got a big shop to do and get your party togs dry cleaned so you're not caught out without an outfit.
3. Let yourself get festive. With all the rushing about it can be easy to forget that Christmas is fun. Put your christmas playlist on your ipod and use it to get in the mood whether you're at home doing chores, on your way to work or at the gym - I'll be working out to Christmas tunes all December! Get an advent calendar for your desk, put up some super tacky decorations at home and have some mulled wine whilst you write your Christmas cards - it's the one month a year when you can do all this without anyone thinking you're a bit odd so make the most of it!!
So I thought I'd give you all an alternative advent calender with tips or treats to keep you healthy, happy and sane over the Christmas period.
Whilst I don't eat milk chocolate (lactose + sugar is terrible for digestion + skin) I do still enjoy dark chocolate. My current chocolate treat is Green + Blacks current and hazelnut 60% dark chocolate. Dairy free and with much less sugar than milk chocolate it's a healthier alternative to my old favourite - dairy milk fruit and nut, plus being so rich you can't eat more than a few squares. Keep some in your desk and have a couple of squares whilst your colleagues tuck into the quality streets.
Sunday, 4 December 2011
Thursday, 1 December 2011
Still for all the amusement Movember is a very serious cause - raising awareness about Prostate cancer and the importance of raising any symptoms with your doctor.
Awareness is so necessary as, with all cancers, the earlier it's caught the more effective the treatment. Still the best cure is prevention which is very much what nutritional therapy is all about.
My top tips for reducing your risk are:
Cut down on your meat intake, particularly processed meats and pork (ham, sausages, bacon).
Reduce your diary intake and have organic when you do have dairy
Reduce your intake of refined sugar
Eat six to eight portions of fruit and veg per day, if that seems tricky just make sure you have one portion with every meal and snack and keep some fruit on your desk at work.
Take extra anti-oxidants if you do particularlyintensive excersize as this raises your need for antioxidants. Cherry active and using juices and smoothies are good to top up.
One particular antioxidant that's effective in prevention of prostate cancer is lycopene. Tomatoes are the best source of lycopene, however interestingly cooked and processed tomatoes are a better source than raw tomatoes.
This may seem odd, given there's a regular emphasis on eating raw fruit and veg on the basis that they are more nutritious. But infact that isn't always the case, which is one of the reasons why an entirely raw food diet might not be the best for optimum health.
In practice this means that regularly having passata or tomato puree may be cancer protective particularly against prostate cancer. Both can easily be used in homecooking - home-made pizza, bologneise, lasagna, stews and soups.
If prostate cancer runs in your family it may be an idea to supplement with lycopene as well.
Probably as a result of this, and half the office coughing and spluttering around me, I've also felt like I'm fighting off a bug for the last week ... not good.
In my previous incarnation I would have ploughed on til I collapsed. But these days I take action before I get totally depleted.
For anyone feeling a bit under par right now, or anyone who has a tendency to plough on regardless of how they feel here's my action plan:
Number 1 is to prioritise sleep - you need more of this if you're fighting infection or under stress/pressure so this is especially important in the face of both. Chores and friends can wait til you've caught up - you won't be any fun if you're tired and no one will thank you for passing on your bugs to them! Cancel weeknight plans and leave saturday and sunday morning free for a decent lie in.
Number 2 is to scale back exercise - I'm limiting myself to a 20minute walk per day til I feel myself again. This is hard for me as I love the gym and do worry about turning into Kirsty Alley if I don't go! Still as long as you follow your appetite (rather than eating the same volume as you would on a gym day) the damage to your waistband over a couple of weeks off actually shouldn't be that bad. Do some gentle hatha yoga to keep yourself sane til you're able to go back.
Number 3 is to take a deep breath - even if your day is running away from you take 10 minutes off the desk at some point. Find a quiet spot or get some fresh air. Take 10 deep breaths and get some perspective - city work doesn't usually involve life or death scenarios - the world won't end if you don't finish your powerpoint presentation!
Number 4 is to stop shovelling - If you can't avoid eating and working at the same time then at least pace yourself by putting your fork down between mouthfuls - if you're working it doesn't matter how long you're taking to eat your meal so slow it down. By slowing down you'll un-knot your stomach and absorb a few more nutrients from your food.
Finally number 5 is get some extra vitamin C - take supplements, drink smoothies, eat fruit - just get it in!! Vitamin C is used up so much in stress and also so needed for immune function, so if you're run down you're more than likely running low. Keep it up til you feel better!